Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday dismissed a warning issued by international organization Amnesty International against him regarding his human rights record and alleged killings.
Asked for comment on the matter, Duterte first replied, "Ano bang problema nila?"
Then he said the issue "started as a political gimmick by Congressman (Prospero) Nograles," the former House speaker who was a rival of the mayor.
"Seven hundred daw pinatay ko? Kulang sila sa kuwenta," Duterte said.
Asked for a figure, he replied: "Mga 1,700."
The international human rights group made the warning as the November 2015 results of an SWS survey was released, which has Duterte in first place with 38 percent.
Amnesty International Philippines campaign coordinator Wilnor Papa said their group "has long called for an investigation" of the popular local executive, who is being linked to extrajudicial killings carried out by the so-called Davao Death Squad.
Papa said "the government seems to look the other way" on the matter.
He added that Duterte's popularity, brought by his stance on stricter law enforcement and war against criminals, should not get in the way of promoting human rights.
While he has earned admiration for his anti-crime initiatives, the mayor — who has been tagged as "The Punisher" by Time Magazine — has been criticized for alleged involvement in killings. Among his critics are former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Commission on Human Rights.
A government witness came forward earlier to say that Duterte has links to the Davao Death Squad.
But while the mayor has yet to directly comment on the issue, he hasn't been shy in admitting that he had killed kidnappers who took a Chinese girl and returned her in Davao City after repeatedly raping her in another province.
He said he did this "to show my brutality."
In his speech during the PDP-Laban's formal proclamation of him as the party standard bearer for the 2016 polls, Duterte said, "Ang atake sa akin is pumapatay ng tao. Totoo 'yan, wala tayong problema diyan. Yang mga taga Davao, alam nila yan," Duterte said. —JST, GMA News